I sat in the back of Brock’s SUV, looking out into the nighttime desert landscape … flat and black, giving way to the Strip a few miles ahead of us.
It had been an emotional six days in Las Vegas. I had arrived days earlier and spent my first night with Kyla, showing her photos of my trip and drinking copious amounts of wine before we finally decided to call it a night.
In between then and that moment in the desert, I had gone through a multitude of emotions.
Why am I loving this town so much?
There’s a funny thing that happens to you when you decide to take your life, turn it upside down and then attempt to turn it rightside up.
You grow. You change. You are no longer the same person you were.
I found myself back in the town I had come to adore. And hate. And then love to hate. And then … love?
I had become mesmerized by the city.
It looks different after finding yourself.
My third night in town was my birthday. I had assembled my normal crew of amazing people for my birthday celebration at the old haunt, The Tuscany Casino.
Through my years in Las Vegas, the center bar at Tuscany had been my lifeline. Friends, lovers … they all had been initiated at Tuscany. It was our spot for “emergency drinks” which happened to be three nights a week back in the day. I was on a first name basis with the bartenders. When my favorite bartender had his baby, I dropped off a present for the baby. When a bartender we knew had passed away, I cried. It was my spot.
And, on my birthday, so many of the people I loved were there. My old family.
The next night, Kyla I went out to see my Bulgarian Travel Buddy, Abby, at a party at Gold Lounge inside of Aria at City Center. Abby had just returned from living the ex-pat life in Costa Rica to the pulsing Las Vegas as an editor of a magazine.
Seeing her was amazing. Refreshing. And then, beyond the ropes was my old co-worker and friend, Aimee, and her husband (also my friend), Ben. And then, another old friend from my previous days in Las Vegas, Jason.
I miss this life.
And then, after that, the five of us journeyed to Town Square to grab drinks and catch-up.
“Aimee,” I said to my friend as we sipped our IPA, “I think I may want to move back.”
Admitting it is half the battle.
“D,” she began, frowning, “You were miserable when you were here. I am so afraid if you come back you will be the same way.”
I knew where she was coming from. I LIVED my misery. But, I also lived my misery in Atlanta, and coming into my own in Europe.
“This is what I want … I think.”
It wasn’t until two nights later, in the middle of the desert, with Brock, that it really hit home.
I love my friends, never misunderstand that. But, when you are traveling you lose touch. You know when you get home, the friendship will pick-up where it left off. However, there are a few people who I actually grew closer with when I was traveling.
Brock was one of them. He became an important person in the last month of my travels.
When I felt like my world was falling apart, when all I wanted to do was come home, when I needed anything, he was there. We would talk on IM and he would help chase my sad away.
Seeing him was important to me. I wanted to tell him how much he helped me smile when all I wanted to do was cry in Bosnia, in Croatia. When I was dealing with my grandmother’s sickness, and ultimately her death, he was there … a simple click away, saying what I needed to hear.
And, there we were, six weeks later … and I didn’t so much as whisper it to him.
Everything changes when you come home.
The two of us sat, side by side, in the back of his car, looking out into the desert while he strummed his guitar.
We sat there for hours while he played some of his original tunes. Note: Brock is a super talented singer, lyricist and guitar player.
Then, he played a song that hit home. About changing your life. About taking a chance. About going “some place with a view.”
He sat on the bumper, singing that song, and I looked out as the haunting chorus began. Above, at the twinkling stars. In front of me at South Point’s flashing marquee, at the lightning blinking in the distance, at the spotlight of Luxor extending towards the sky.
Thoughts of my trip came flooding back to me … learning Irish locks were tricky on St. Patrick’s Day Eve, teaching English in Spain, not taking it off in Budapest, stumbling onto the massive funeral in Krakow, experiencing Auschwitz, trekking for gorillas in Rwanda, falling in lust in Granada, wandering through Marrakesh, being a spectator at the F1 race in Valencia, Spain, taking it off in Barcelona, falling off a cliff in Turkey, Abby and I joining forces in Eastern Europe, Katie and David in Bosnia, touching my fingers into the water in the Adriatic, sitting by boats in Trogir and crying when I lost my grandmother, coming home.
I sat there, listening to his lyrics and matching them to the vast memories I had tucked away.
My eyes began to well up as I went back and forth between my past and my present. Between knowing what I wanted and having no clue. I sat there, bundled in a jacket, avoiding looking at him because I thought one look would give too much access to my soul.
And then, as he picked the last chords on the guitar, I realized something.
Las Vegas is my home.
“What do you think?” Brock asked, turning to me.
I wanted to turn to face him. To bury my head in his shoulder and cry. I was suddenly overcome with emotions, with feelings I hadn’t expect to have on that chilly October night in the middle of the Las Vegas desert.
You just made my mind open up. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t want it. Oh, you lovely little mind f#$%.
“It … I … I listened to that song and I really related to it,” I said, trying to sound like I at least kind of had my shit together.
I kicked my foot around as it dangled off of the bumper. Uneasy. Unsure of what else I could say without completely losing it and having mascara drip down my cheeks.
I didn’t want to look at him. There was too much of everything pulsing through me at that moment to make sense.
We sat awhile longer as he played me some more music, but by then I had already come to my conclusion:
I am HOME.